STORIES OF MY EARLY FRIENDS
ONE day after the death of my sister Laura, I was admiring a photograph of my sister Charty in the window of Macmichael's, when a
footman touched his hat and asked me to speak to “her Grace” in the carriage. I turned round and saw the Duchess of Manchester*. I had never spoken to her in my life, and wondered what she could possibly want me for. After shaking hands, she said:
“Jump in, dear child: I can’t bear to see you look so sad. Jump in and I’ll take you for a drive and you can come back to tea with me.”
I got in and we drove round Hyde Park. I followed her upstairs to her boudoir in Great Stanhope Street and we sat down to tea. In the middle of tea, Queen Alexandra— then Princess of Wales—came in to see the Duchess. She ran in unannounced and kissed her hostess.
I looked at her; she had more real beauty, both of line and expression, than any one I had ever seen ; it was the first time I spoke to her, and I cannot forget it.
Those were the days of the great beauties. London worshipped beauty as the Greeks did. Photographs of the Princess of Wales, Mrs. Langtry, Mrs. West, Mrs. Wheeler, Lady Dudley, etc., collected crowds in the shop windows. I have seen great and conventional ladies like old Lady Cadogan stand on an iron chair in the Park to see Mrs. Langtry walk past; and wherever Georgina Lady Dudley drove there were crowds round her carriage when it pulled up. She was a vision of beauty, holding a large hólland umbrella over her lifeless old husband. Groups of beauties like the Moncreiffes, Grahams, Conynghams, de Moleynses, Lady Mary Mills, Lady Randolph Churchill, Mrs. Arthur Sassoon, Lady Dalhousie, Lady March and Lady Londonderry were to be seen in the salons of the ’80’s. There is nothing at all like this in London today. I doubt if there is any one now with enough beauty or temperament to provoke a fight in Rotten Row between gentlemen in high society.
Queen Alexandra had a more perfect face than any of those I have mentioned. It is visible to anyone even at her present age, because the oval is still there, the frownless brow, the carriage, and above all, the grace both of movement and of gesture which made her the idol of her people.
London society is neither better nor worse than it was in the ’80’s; there is less loyalty perhaps among groups of friends; but where all the beauty has gone to I cannot think!
Margot Wins a Bet
WHEN the Princess of Wales walked into the Duchess of Manchester’s boudoir that afternoon I got up to go away, but the Duchess presented me to her and they asked me to stay and have tea. Queen Alexandra’s total absence of egotism and the warmth of her welcome, prompted not by consideration but by sincerity, her sense of humor and a refinement rarely tb be seen in Royalty inspired me with a love for her from which I have never departed.
I have been presented to the Prince of Wales by Lady Dalhousie in the Paddock at Ascot. He asked me if I would bad fancy for the Wokingham Stakes and have a little bet wit on the race. We went down to the paddock rails with him and saw all the horses canter past. I knew none of them by name, but one went down in great form. I verified him by his colors—he was called Wokingham—I told the Prince that he was a sure winner; but out of so many entries no one was more surprised than I was when my horse romped in. I was given a gold cigarette-case and was much pleased with myself.
King Edward had great charm and personality, and enormous pres| tige; he was more touchy than King George and fonder of pleasure. He and Queen Alexandra, before they succeeded, were the great leaders of London society; they practically directed what people could and could not do. Great physical courage had always distinguished our Royal family, particularly our Kings—this combined with a sense of duty unparalleled in any court in Europe has made them loved and revered by all.
Both our Kings were fortunate in their private secretaries; Lord Knollys and Lord Stamfordham are liberal-minded men of the highest honor and discretion, and I am proud to call them my friends.
I’m Now Invited Everywhere
BEFORE I knew the Prince of Wales, I did not go to many fashionable balls; but after that Ascot I was asked everywhere. I was quite unconscious of it at the time, but was told afterwards that people were beginning to criticize me; one or two incidents might have enlightened me had I been more aware of myself.
One night I was dining alone with my beloved friend, Godfrey Webb, in his flat in Victoria Street. I was lying on the sofa and he was reading out loud to me, when my father sent'the brougham with a message to ask if I would accompany him to supper at Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill’s to meet the Prince of Wales. I said I would be delighted if I could keep on the dress that I was wearing, but as it was late and I
•Afterwards the late Duchess of Devonshire.
had to get up early next day I did not want to change; he said of course my dress would be quite smart enough.
I had much wanted to know Lord Randolph, but it was only a few days before the supper that I had had the good fortune to sit next to him at a dinner. When he saw he had been put next to a Miss, he placed his left elbow firmly on the table and turned his back upon me through several courses. I could not but admire the way he appeared to do everything with one hand. • I do not know whether it was the lady on his right or what prompted him, but at last he turned round to me and asked me if I knew any politicians. I told him that, with the exception of himself, I knew them all intimately. This surprised him, and after discussing Lord Rosebery—to whom he was devoted—he asked:
“Do you know Lord Salisbury?”
I said “No;” and that I had forgotten his name in my list but that I would like above everything to meet him; at which he remarked that I was welcome to all his share of him,
“Why do you want to know him?”
Margot: “Because I think him amazingly amusing and a very good writer.”
Lord Randolph: (muttering something about Salisbury dead at his feet which I could not catch) : “I wish I had never known him.”
Margot: “I am afraid you resigned more out of temper than conviction.”
At this Lord Randolph turned completely round and, gazing at me, said:
“Confound your cheek! I hate Salisbury: he jumped at my resignation like a dog at a bone. The Tories are ungrateful beasts. Are you a Liberal?”
I told him what I was, and what I thought of his party, and we talked through the rest of dinner. Towards the end of the conversation, he asked me who I was. I told him that after his manners to me in the earlier part of the evening it was better we should remain strangers. However, after a little chaff we made friends and he said he would come and see me.
I had remarkable talks at supper which laid the foundation of my friendships with King Edward and the Duke of Devonshire. The Prince told me he had had a dull youth, as Queen Victoria would not get over the Prince Consort’s death and kept up an exaggerated mourning. Everyone was afraid of her except John Brown; he said he hoped I would not be when I met her. I assured him I was afraid of no one. He was much amused when I told him that before he had arrived that evening some of the ladies had whispered that I was in my nightgown and I hoped he didn’t think me lacking in courtesy because I had not got a ball-dress on. He praised my dress and he thought I looked like an old picture. This remark made me see uncomfortable visions of the Oakham ball, and he did not dispel them by adding:
“You are so original! You must dance the cotillion with me.”
I had no idea we were going to dance. I told him that I could not possibly stay, as it would bore my father stiff and he hated sitting up late; also I was not dressed for dancing. As soon as supper was over, I made my best courtesy; and, after having presented my father to the Prince, we went home to bed.
My home, Glen, is on the border of Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire, about sixteen miles from Abbotsford, and thirty from Edinburgh. It was designed on the lines of Glamys, in what is called Scottish baronial style. I well remember the first shock I had when some one said: “I hate turrets and tin men on the top of them!” It unsettled me for days.
What made Glen really beautiful and unique was not its architecture but its situation. The road by which you approached it was a cul-dc-sac and led to nothing but moors. This—and the fact of its being ten miles from a railway station—gave it security in its wildness. Great stretches of heather swept down to the garden-walls, and however many heights you climbed, new moors rose to beckon you forward.
Evan Charteris said once that my hair was biography. As it is my only claim to beauty, I would like to think that this is true; but really the hills at Glen are my biography.
Nature inoculates its lovers from its own culture; sea, downs, and moors produce a different type of person. Shepherds, fishermen, and poachers are a little like what they contemplate. Were it. possible to ask the towns what, type they find most untamable, I have no doubt that they would say those that live on the moors.
I was a child of the heather and quite untamable. I married late —at the age of thirty —and spent all my early life at Glen. After my sister Laura Lyttelton married. 1 lived there with my eldest brother Eddy for over nine
After my first great sorrow —the death of my sister Laura—I felt suffocated in the house, it was necessary for me to be out. of doors from morning until night. I was lying in the heather one day when I saw an old shepherd called Gowenloek coming up to me. He held my pony by the rein; I had been careless ami never noticed that it had strayed away; I thanked him; he looked atme quietly —he knew the rage and anguish Laura's death had brought into my heart—and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Child," he said, “there's no contending—Aye—aye—" shaking his beautiful old head
__“that is sp-there’s no contending. ...”
Another day it came on to rain. 1 observed a tramp crouching under the dykes, holding a large umbrella over his head. He was eating his lunch. I went and sat down beside him and we fell into a desultory conversation. He had a grand, wild face and I felt some curiosity about him, but he was taciturn and all he told me was that he was going to the Gordon Arms on his way to St. Mary’s loch. I asked him every sort of question—as to where he had come from, where he was going to and what he wanted to do, etc.—but he remained silent. At last 1 gave him a cigarette and a light and we smoked quietly
together; then turning to him, 1 said: . .
«You seem to walk all day and go nowhere. When you wake up in the morning, how do you shape your course?”
“I always turn my back to the wind,” he ¡fnswered.
T AM one of twelve children, but I remember only eight. My eldest sister, Pauline, or I pos;e as we called her, was born in 1855 and married on my tenth birthday one of the best of men, Thomas Gordon Duff. She died of the cruel disease by which my family has been pursued, tuberculosis. We
-were too different in age and temperament to be really intimate; but her goodness, patience and pluck made a deep impression on all of us.
My second sister, Charlotte, was born in 1858, and married the present Lord Ribblesdale in 1877, when I was thirteen. She was the only one of us —except my eldest brother who was tall. Charty, as we called her, was in some ways the most capable of us all, but she had not Laura’s genius, Lucy’s talents, or my understanding. She had wonderful grace and less vanity than any one that ever lived.
It was difficult to see a betterlooking couple than Charty and Ribblesdale. Their photographs appeared in the shop-windows. I have seen people following them about in picture galleries.
My next sister, Lucy, was the most talented of the family and the best educated. She fell between two stools In her youth, because Charty and Posie were together, and Laura and I;
■consequently she did not enjoy the happy childhood that we did; she was mishandled by the authorities both in the nursery and in the schoolroom.
When I was thirteen she made a foolish ■engagement, so that our great intimacy only began after her marriage. She "was my mother’s favorite child, which none of us resented. Although Lucy was like my father in hospitality, energy, courage and generous giving, she had my mother’s stubborn modesty and delicacy of mind.
The boys of the family were different from the girls, though they all had charm and cleverness. The difference lay in temperament;
■my mother used to say it was circulation. They were brought up to no profession. This was not thèir fault but that of my parents; they would have been less apprehensive and more serene if they had had some settled work in life, and they were clever enough to do most things well.
My brother Jack was petted and mismanaged in his youth. In spite of a verygoodfigure, his height was arrested by his being allowed—when he was a little fellow—to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day with the shooters. He was taken out of bed to play billiards in his nightdress. Leather foot-stools were placed one on top of the other by a proud papa, and the company would watch this lovely little boy make long breaks; excited and exhausted, he would go to bed long after midnight, with praises singing in his ears.
“You are more like lions than sisters!” he said one day in the nursery when we snubbed him.
In spite of this early teasing and training my brother Jack turned his life to good account. My husband gave him his first chance by making him his parliamentary secretary.
In the terrible years of 1914, 1915, and 1916 he was Under-Secretary for War to the late Lord Kitchener, and was finally made Secretary for Scotland with a seat in the Cabinet. Like other members of the Tennant family, he had tenderness, powers of emotion, and a jolly sense of humor. He was a fine sportsman with an exceptionally good eye for games.
My brother Frank was the artist among the boys. He had a perfect ear for music and distinguished what was beautiful in everything he saw. He had the sweetest temper of any of us. My mother never understood him.
My eldest brother, Eddy, although very different to me in temperament and outlook, was the one with whom I got on best. We shared a secret and passionate love for our home, Glen. Herbert Gladstone told me that one day in India, when he and Eddy after a long day were resting in silence, he said to him:
“W'hat are you thinking about, Eddy?”
To which Eddy answered:
“Oh! Always the same. . . Glen!. . . ”
In all the nine years during which he and I lived together alone in Scotland, in spite of mutual irascibility of temper, we never had a quarrel. Whether we joined each other on the moor at the far shepherd’s cottage, or waited for wild duck in the frosty evenings, or lunched on the banks of the Tweed when he was fishing, we had a thousand common memories to keep our hearts together.
My father was a man whose vitality, irritability,energy and impressionability amounted
I never saw him indifferent, slack or even a spectator in'my life. He was as violent when he was dying as when he was living and quite without self-pity.
He hated presents, but he liked praise, and was easily flattered. (He was too busy even for much of that, but he could stand more than most of us.) If it is a little simple, it is also rather generous to accept the nicest things people can say of you (as long as it does not crystallise you into too good an opinion of yourself)—I think I would rather accept too much than repudiate and refuse—it is warmer and more enriching.
My father had not the smallest conceit or smugness, he had child-like vanity. You could not spoil him or even improve him; he remained what God had created him: egotistical, sound, sunny and unreasonable, violently impatient and, though not at all selfindulgent—despising the very idea of a valet or a secretary—absolutely self-willed; what he wanted to do, say or buy, he would do, say and buy at once.
He was fond of a few people, Mark Napier, Ribblesdale, Lord Haldane, Mr. Heseltine, Lord Rosebery, and Arthur Balfour, but he didn’t love deeply.
Ribblesdale’s courtesy and sweetness delighted him—they were genuinely fond of each other. I cannot pass my brother-in-law’s name without some reference to the effect which he produced on us when he first came to Glen.
He was the finest-looking man that I ever saw, except the late Lord Wemyss, my friend Lord Pembroke, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt and Lord D’Abernon.* He had been introduced to my sister Charty at a ball, when he was twenty-one and she eighteen. A brother-officer of his in the Rifle Brigade, on seeing them waltzing together, asked him if she was his sister, to which he answered: “No, thank God!”
I was twelve when he came to Glen as Thomas Lister; his fine manners, perfect sense of humor and picturesque appearance captivated every one; whether you agreed with him or not, he never said a stupid thing. He is one of the few original people I have met in my life, and he always understood and loved my father.
My Father’s Speculations
A WHOLE chapter might be devoted to stories about my father’s adventures in speculation, but I will only give one. As a very young man, he was put by my grandfather into a Liverpool firm; he made several thousands in a private speculation; his father, on hearing of this, wrote and apologized to the head of the firm, saying he was willing to withdraw his son Charles if he had in any way shocked them by risking a loss which he could not have paid. The answer was a request that the said “son Charles” should become a partner in the firmHis genius for affairs and his delightful disposition had been discovered by the heads of the business. Born a little quicker, more punctual, and more alive than other people, he suffered fools not at all. He could not modify himself; he was the same man in his nursery, his school and his office, the same man in church, club, city, or the suburbs.
Memories of My Mother
In the City he was alone and this calmed him; he loved being in the train for the same reason. He even slept better in the train than in his bed. Nerves more than noise prevented him from sleeping well anywhere. He used trains like taxis and thought nothing of going to London from Glen for the day.
MY MOTHER was more different to my father than it is possible to imagine. She was as timid as he was bold, as controlled as he was spontaneous, and as refined, courteous and unassuming as he was vibrant, sheer and adventurous.
Fond as we were of each other and intimate over all my love-affairs, my mother never really understood me; my vitality, independent happiness, and physical energies filled her with apprehension. She never grew accustomed to being rich and was always preaching economy. I made up my mind definitely at an early age —after hearing my father constantly chaffing her—that money was the most over-rated of all anxieties; and nothing that has occurred since has caused me to change my views. In discussing matrimony he would say: “I’m sure I hope you’ll not marry a penniless man; men should not marry at all unless they can keep their wives,” etc.
To this my mother would retort: “Do not listen to your father.
Marrying for money has never yet made any one happy; it is not blessed. _ _
My mother had no illusions about her children or anything else; her mild opinions balanced my father’s obsessions. When Chárty’s looks were praised, she would answer
with a fine smile:
“Tant soit peu mouton!”
She thought us all very plain.
When some one suggested that we should be painted, it was almost more than my mother could bear. The poorness of the subject and the richness of the price shocked her profoundly. Luckily, my father—who had begun to buy fine pictures entirely agreed with her, though not for the same reasons:
“I am sure I do not know where I could hang the girls if I were fool enough to have them painted!”
I never remember kissing my mother without her tapping me gently on the back and saying, “Hold yourself up,” or kissing my father without his saying, ‘Don t frown. My mother, who had been a great flirt, thoroughly enjoyed all my love affairs. She
Continued on page 81
♦Lord D’Abernon of Esher Place.
Stories of My Early Friends
Continued from page 30
was absolutely unshockable, little words of wisdom would drop from her mouth. My mother: “Men don’t like being run
Margot: “Oh! don’t you believe it, mamma!”
My mother: “It’s a pity it was ever known! The world is so unkind, and it is always silly to be found out!”
She told my father that, if he interfered with my love-affairs, I should verylikely marry a groom.
She did me a good turn here; for, though I would not have married a groom, I might have married the wrong man and in any case interference would have been cramping.
The New Baby Arrives
THE earliest event I can remember was the new baby, my brother Jack. Dr. Cox was spoiling my mother’s goodnight nursery visit; while I was being dried after my bath; my pink flannel dressing-gown with white button-hole stitching was hanging over the fender. The doctor was discussing some earnest subject in a low tone. He got up, and, pinching my chin,
“She will be very angry, but we will give her a baby of her own.”
Next day a huge doll obliterated from my mind the new baby which had arrived that morning. I was two.
We were left very much alone in our nursery, as my mother travelled from health resort to health resort hunting for health for her child Pauline, who had delicate lungs. Our nurse, Mrs. Hills— called “Missuls” for short—left us to go as lady’s-maid to my sister Posie on my tenth birthday—the day on which she married Thomas Gordon Duff. This removed our first and last restriction. We were wild children and left to ourselves had a glorious time. I rode my pony up the front stairs, and tried to teach my father’s high-stepping barouche-horses to jump—crashing their knees against the hurdles in the field, and climbed our incredibly dangerous roof sitting on the sweep’s ladders by moonlight in my night-gown. I had scrambled up every tree, walked on every wall, and knew every turret at Glen; I ran along narrow ledges on the roof in rubber shoes at terrific heights. This alarmed other people so much that my father sent for me one day to see him in his “business-room” and made me swear before God that I would give up climbing on the roof; and give it up I did, with many tears.
Lifting Feet to Eyebrows
WE HAD a dancing-class at the minister’s and an arithmetic class in our school-room. I was as good at the Manse as I was bad at my sums; and poor Mr. Menzies, the Traquair schoolmaster, had eventually to beg my mother to withdraw me from the class, as I kept them all back. To my delight I was withdrawn; and from that day to this I have never added a single row of figures.
I showed a remarkable proficiency in dancing, and could lift both my feet to the level of my eyebrows with disconcerting ease. Mrs. Wallace, the minister's wife, was shocked, and said:
“Look at Margot with her Frenchified
I pondered often and long over this— the first remark about myself that I can ever remember. Someone said: “Does your hair curl naturally?” to which I replied, “I don’t know, but I will ask!” I had not the slightest idea what “curling naturally” meant; I was unaware of myself.
We had two best dresses, one made in London, which we only wore on great occasions; the other made by my nurse “Missuls” in which we went down to dessert.
These dresses, in which 1 was photographed, gave me my first impression of civilized life.
Just as the Speaker, before clearing the House, spies strangers, so when I saw my black velvet skirt and pink Garibaldi I knew that something was up! The nursery confection was of white alpaca piped with pink and did not inspire the same excitement and confidence.
We saw very little of our mother in our youth, and I remember asking Laura if she thought she said her prayers.
I never remember hearing my mother or any one else talking to us about the Bible, but we were all deeply religious, which by no means implies that we were good. There was one service a week at Traquair Kirk on Sundays at twelve. Every one went to this; and the shepherd’s dogs slept close to their masters’ plaids hung over the high box-pews all the way down the aisle. I have heard many fine sermons in Scotland, but our minister was not a good preacher and we were often dissolved in laughter, sitting in the square family pew in the gallery. My father closed his eyes tightly all through the sermon, leaning his head on his hand. We played no games on Sundays; and I remember being unhappy when I heard that Ribblesdale and Charty played lawntennis after they were married.
“And now, my friends, do your duty and don’t look upon the world with eyes jaundiced by religion.”
My mother never heard us say our prayers and hardly ever mentioned religion. She had had many sorrows, and in estimating her lack of temperament, I do not think I made enough allowance for them. No true woman ever gets over the loss of a child, and her three eldest had died before I was born.
I was the most vital of her children and what the nurses described as a “venturesome child.”
Our coachman’s wife called me a “little Turk!” Self-willed, excessively passionate, painfully truthful, bold as well as fearless and always against convention,
I was no doubt extremely difficult to bring up.
Getting an Education
ALTHOUGH I did not do much thinking over my education, others did it for me. I had been well grounded by a series of short-staying governesses in the Druids and woad, in Alfred and the cakes, Romulus and Remus, and Bruce and the spider. I could speak French perfectly and German a little; and I knew a great deal of every kind of literature from Tristram Shandy and The Antiquary to Under Two Flags and the Grammarian’s Funeral-, but the governesses had been failures; and, when Lucy made her foolish marriage, my mother decided that Laura and I should go to school.
Mademoiselle de Menecy, to whom my mother had been recommended, had started a hyper-refined, very small seminary in Gloucester Crescent, where she undertook to “finish” twelve young ladies. She was a woman of ill-temper, good manners and a lively mind. Laura and I went to school together, but after a few days Laura got bored; she saw—as I did—that she would learn little by staying, and, having a chance of joining Lucy at Oberammergau, where she could see the Passion Play, she left me. I was much upset, but consoled by my father saying I could ride in the Row with him three days a week. Mademoiselle de Menecy thought my hack gave prestige to her front door, and she raised no objections.
No. 7 Gloucester Crescent looked down on the Great Western Railway; the lowing of cows and bleating of sheep in the cattletrucks under my window kept me awake, as well as the sudden shrill whistles and other sounds; and my bed rocked and trembled as the vigorous trains passed at intervals all through the night.
After Laura left, I felt very desolate sitting in the horse-hair school-room, with a patent-leather French Bible in my hand, surrounded by eleven girls all taking their turn reading the lessons in French.
“Et le roi David deplui a ¡'Eternel,” I heard in a broad Scotch accent; and for the first time I began to scrutinize my stable companions.
Mlle, de Menecy allowed no one to argue with her; our first little brush was when she said this to me. I answered: “But in that case, mademoiselle, how are any of us to learn anything? I don’t know .how much the others know, but I know nothing except what I’ve read; so, unless I ask you questions, how am I to learn?”
Mlle, de Menecy: “Je ne vous ai jamais défendu de me questionner: vous n’écoutez pas, mademoiselle. J’ai dit qu’il ne fallait pas discuter avec moi.”
Margot (keenly): “But, mademoiselle, discussion is the only way of making lessons interesting.”
Mlle, de Menecy (with violence): “Voulez-vous vous taire!”
To talk to a girl of nearly seventeen in this way was so unintelligent that I made up my mind I' would waste neither time nor affection on her.
None of the girls was particularly clever, but we all liked each other; and for the first time—and I may safely say the last—
I was looked upon as a kind of heroine. It came about in this way; Mademoiselle de Menecy was never wrong. To misquote Miss Fowler’s admirable saying apropos of her father, “She always let us have her own way.” If an ink-bottle was spilt, or the back of a book burst, she never waited to find out who did it, but in a torrent of words crashed into the first girl she suspected, her face becoming a silly mauve. This made me indignant. One day the ink was spilt over the tablecloth, and Mlle, de Menecy as usual scolded the wrong girl. Meeting the victim of Mademoiselle’s temper, I said to
“But why didn’t you tell her you hadn’t I done it—ass?”
Girl (catching her sob): “What was the good? She never listens and I would have had to tell her who really spilt the
This did seem rather awkward.
“Ah! well,” said I. “That wouldn’t have done. I had better go and put the thing right for you. She’s a senseless woman; and I can’t think why you are all so frightened of her.”
Girl: “It’s all very well for you: Mademoiselle is a howling snob. You should have heard her on you before you came! She said your father would very likely be made a peer and your sister Laura marry Sir Charles Dilke (the thought of this much over-rated man marrying Laura was almost more than I could bear, but curiosity kept me quiet). You see, she is far nicer to you than to us because she wants to keep you here.”
Nothavingthought of this before, I said:
“Is that really true? What a horrid woman! Well, I had better go and square it up; but will you all back me? Don’t go on fretting and making yourself miserable.”
Girl: “I don’t so much mind what you call her flux de bouche scolding; but, when she flounced out of the room she said I was not to go home this Saturday.”
Margot: “Oh, that’ll be all right; but you must play fair by me, all of you, or I won’t stay here!” (Exit girl, drying her eyes.)
When she came back, she told me they would back me to a man, and that I was splendid. Encouraged by this praise I determined on my plan of action. It had never occurred to me that Mlle, de Menecy was a snob; this knowledge was a great weapon in my hands.
Lying in a Good Cause
I FOUND one of my linen overalls which was heavily stained with Dolly dyes, the stains looking like ink.
I knocked at Mlle, de Menecy’s bedroom door and went in.
Margot: “Mademoiselle, I’m afraid
you’ll be very angry, but I spilt the ink and burst the back of your dictionary.
I ought to have told you at once, but I never thought any girl would be such an image as to let you scold her without telling you she had not done it.” Seeing a look of suspicion on her sunless face, I added nonchalantly, “Of course, if you think my conduct sets a bad example in the school I can easily go.” I observed her eyelids flicker. “I think before you scolded Sarah, you might have heard what she had to say.”
Mlle, de Menecy: “Ce que vous dites me choque profondément-, il n’est, difficile de croire que vous avez fait une pareille lächele, modem omite'.”
Margot: (Interrupting violently):
“Hardly lächele, as I only knew a few moments ago that you had been so unjust. Directly l knew about it, I came to you; but, as' I said before, I am quite ready to leave and my father won’t mind at all.” Mlle, de Menecy: (feeling her way to a change of front): “Sarah s’est conduit, si héroïquement, que pour le moment je n’insiste plus. Je vous felicite, mademoiselle,
sur voire franchise Vous pouvez rejoindre vos camarades."
The Lord had delivered her into my
This sort of thing could not last; Mademoiselle de Menecy’s snobbishness was only beaten by her temper.
A few weeks later, 1 was standing smoking a cigarette on our school balcony overlooking the railway-line. Mademoiselle de Menecy had gone to hear Princess Christian open a bazaar. Smoking was of course strictly forbidden.
It was a beautiful evening with a red sky. I was feeling rather depressed. I was talking to our prettiest ecoliere, Ethel Brydson—a striking-looking creature and fond of me. Time was up; we had to go in and prepare for half an hour before tea.
Margot (leaning over the balcony, blowing cigarette-smoke into the sky): “I hate this beastly place now!”
Ethel: “Oh! I hope you aren’t going to leave us!”
Margot (kissing her hand to the sky): “How I long for Glen!”
Ethel (stopping me): “Good gracious, don’t go on kissing your hand! Don’t you see the engine-driver?”
Flirting With the Driver
I LOOKED down and to my intense amusement saw an engine-driver below on a solitary shunting-engine leaning across the side of his tender, kissing his hand to me.
I leant over the balcony and kissed both my hands to him and then returned through the open window back to the dingy horsehair school-room.
Our piano was placed in the window of the music-room, and next morning, while Ethel was standing by the open window, my friend the engine-driver began kissing his hand to her. It was eight o’clock, Mademoiselle de Menecy was in the window doing her hair and pinning on the twists. I had just finished dressing and was in the reading-room learning the Shakespeare passage chosen by our master of elocution for the final recitation-competition. This was not only a competition for our school but two other seminaries were competing for the prize. I mention this because had I not been so bent on winning this prize, I would have observed what was going on.
My fingers were in my ears and I was murmuring in dramatic tones the words: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, I come to bury Caesar,” etc.
The girls came in and out of the room, but I never noticed them. The breakfastbell rang, I shoved my book into my desk and went down to breakfast; I observed that Ethel’s place was empty; none of the girls looked at me but munched their bread and sipped their tepid tea; Mademoiselle made a few frigid general remarks and, after saying a French grace, left the
I looked at the girls and said:
“Well, what’s the row?”
Margot (looking from face to face): “Ah! The mot d’ordre is that you are not to speak to me! Is that the idea!”
Margot (vehemently and with bitterness): “This is exactly what I thought might happen to me at a girl’s school, that I should find myself betrayed.”
First Girl (bursting out): “Oh, Margot, it’s not that at all. It’s because Ethel won’t betray you that we all are to be punished to-day!”
Margot: “What! Collective punish-
ment? And I am the only one to go unpunished? How very funny! Well, this is Mademoiselle de Menecy’s first act of justice, for I’ve been so often punished for all of you that I’m sure you won’t mind standing me this little outing!”
Margot: “Where is Ethel? Why don’t you answer?” (Very slowly): “Oh, all
right! I leave this very day, so help me God.”
After hearing that Mademoiselle de Menecy had dismissed Ethel on the spot because the engine-driver had kissed his hand to her, I went to her and told her the whole story; all she answered was that I was such a liar she did not believe a word
r MADE great friends with Frau von 1 Mach with whom I lodged in Dresden,
and in loose moments sat on her kitchentable smoking cigarettes and eating black cherries; we discussed Shakespeare, Brahms, Middlemarch, Marlitt and Hegel,
and the time flew.
One night I arrived early at the Opera House and was looking about while the fiddles were tuning up. I wore my pearls and a scarlet crêpe-de-Chine dress and a black cloth cape with a hood which I put on over my head when I walked home. I was having a frank stare at the audience, when I observed just opposite me an officer in a white uniform. As the Saxon soldiers wear pale blue 1 wondered what army he could belong to.
He was a fine-looking young man, very tall, with tailormade shoulders, a small waist and silver and black on his sword belt. When he turned to the stage, I looked at him through my opera glasses. On closer inspection, he was handsomer even than I had thought; a lady joined him in the box. He helped her to take off her cloak and she stood up, gazing down at the stalls. She had a long row of huge pearls falling below her waist and wore a black jet decollete dress. Few people wore low dresses at the opera, so that she was very conspicuous. I saw half the audience fixing her with their glasses. She was evidently famous. Her hair was fox-red and waved; she pinned it back on each side of her temples with Spanish-looking combs of gold and pearls; she had cavernous dark eyes and a snow-white face; and in her hand she held a large bouquet of lilac orchids. She was the best looking woman I saw all the time I was in Germany. I could not take my eyes off her. The white officer began to look about. My red dress caught his eye and he put up his glasses. I instantly put mine down and the overture began. Although the lights were lowered, I saw him looking at me for some time.
The curtain dropped. I had been in the habit of walking about in the entr’actes; so, after applauding Malton, who was singing in the Meistersinger, I left the box. It did not take me long to spot the white officer. He was not accompanied by his lady, but stood leaning against the wall, talking to a man; as I passed him, the crowd being rather thick, I had to stop for a moment for fear of treading on his outstretched toes. I observed his top-boots and big spurs. He pulled himself up to get out of my way; I looked up and our eyes met; I don’t think I blush easily, but something in his gaze may have made me blush. I lowered my eyes and walked on.
The Meistersinger was my favorite opera, and so it seemed to be of the Dresdeners: Wagner, having quarrelled with the authorities, refused to allow the Ring to be played in the Dresden Opera House; everyone was tired of the swans and doves of Lohengrin and Tannhauser, so that, whenever the Meistersinger was given, people came from far and near to hear it.
There was a great crowd that night; and it was raining when we came out. I hung about, hoping to get a cab; I saw my white officer step into a brougham with his lady. He didn’t see me. I heard him give elaborate orders to the coachman.
As no cab turned up, after waiting for some time I pulled the black hood of my cloak over my head and started home; when the crowd scattered I found myself walking alone and I turned into the long street which led to Luttichen-strasse. Suddenly I became aware that I was being followed; I heard the even steps and the click of spurs of some one walking behind me; I should not have noticed this had I not stopped under a lamp to pull on my hood, which the wind had blown off. When I stopped, the steps stopped also. I walked on wondering if it had been my imagination; again I heard the click of spurs coming nearer. The street was deserted. Unable to endure it any longer I turned round; and there was the officer. His black cloak hanging loosely over his shoulders showed me the white uniform and silver belt. He saluted me and asked me in a curious Belgian French if he might accompany me home. I said:
“Oh! Certainly! But I am not nervous in the dark.”
Officer (stopping under the lamp to light a cigarette): “You like Wagner: do you know him well? I find him long and loud.”
Margot: “He is a little long and tiring, but so wonderful!”
Officer: “Don’t you feel tired? (with emphasis) I do!”
Margot: “No, I’m not at all tired.” Officer: “You would not like to go and have a little supper with me in a private room in a hotel, would you?”
Margot: “You are very kind, but I don’t like supper; besides it is late (leaving his side to look at the number of the door.) We must part here.”
Officer (drawing a long breath): “But you said I might take you home.”
Margot (with a slow smile): “So you have; this is my home.”
He looked disappointed and surprised, but took my hand and kissed it, then stepping back saluted and said: “Pardonnez-moi, mademoiselle.”
And She Never Knew “Von-Von!”
\/f Y SECOND adventure was in Berlin on my way back to England. After a little correspondence my mother allowed me to take Frau von Mach to Berlin. We were going to hear the Ring des Nibelungen. Frau von Mach and I were much excited at this little outing, in honor of which I ordered her a black satin dress. German taste is like German figures, thick and clumsy; and my dear old friend looked like a hold-all in my present.
When we arrived in Berlin I found my room in the hotel full of flowers—lilac and roses—and on one of the larger bouquets the card of our permanent lodger, Mr. Loring. I called out to Frau von Mach, who was unpacking:
“Do come here, dearest, and look at my wonderful flowers! You will never guess who they come from!”
Frau von Mach: (looking rather guilty): “I think I can guess.”
Margot: “I see you know! But who would have dreamed that an old maid like Loring would have thought of such gallantry!”
Frau von Mach: “But surely, dear child, you must have known he admired you?” Margot: “Admired me! You must be cracked! I never remember him saying a civil word to me. My poor mamma! If she were here now she would feel that her letter to you on the danger of an elopement was amply justified.”
Frau von Mach and I sat side by side at the opera; and on my left was a German officer. In front of us sat. a lady with beautiful hair and diamond grasshoppers in it; her two daughters sat on either side of her.
Everything was conducted in the dark; and it was evident that the audience was strung up to a high pitch of expectant emotion, for, when I whispered anything to Frau von Mach, the officer on my left said “Hush,” which I thought intolerably rude. Several men in the stalls sitting on the nape of their necks covered their faces with pocket handkerchiefs: I thought them infinitely ridiculous, bursting as they were with beef and beer. My musical left was only a little less goodlooking than the white officer. He kept a rigid profile towards me and squashed up into a corner to avoid sharing an arm of the stall with me. As we had to sit next each other for four nights running, I found this a little exaggerated.
I was angry with myself for dropping my fan and scent-bottle; they rolled under the stall in front of me. The lady picked up the bottle and the officer the fan. The lady gave me my bottle, and, when the curtain fell, began talking to me.
She had turned round to look at me once or twice during the opera. I found her most intelligent, she knew London well and had heard Rubinstein and Joachim play at the Monday Pops.
The officer kept my fan in his hands, and instead of going out in the entr’acte stayed and listened to our conversation.
The curtain went up and the people returned to their seats; he still kept my fan. In the next interval the lady and her girls went out and my left-hand neighbor, still holding the fan, opened conversation with me.
He said to me in perfect English:
“Are you really as fond of this music as you appear to be?”
Margot: “You imply I am humbugging. I never pretend anything; why should you think I do? I don’t lean back perspiring or cover my face with a handkerchief, as your compatriots are doing, it is true, but
He (interrupting:) “I am very glad of that. Would you recognize a motif if I wrote one for you?”
Feeling rather nettled, I said:
“You must think me a perfect gawk if you suppose I should not recognize any motif in Wagner!”
I said this with a commanding gesture, but I was far from confident that he would not catch me out. He opened his cigarette case, took out a visiting-card, wrote the Schlummer-motif on the back and handed it to me. After telling him what the motif was, I looked at his very long name at the back of the card: Graf von-von-von.
Seeing me do this, he said with a slight twinkle:
“Won’t you write me a motif now?” Margot: “Alas! I can’t write music and to save my life could not do what you have done: you are a composer?”
Graf von-von-von: “I shan’t tell you what I am—especially as I’ve given you my name—till you tell me who you are.” Margot: “I am a young lady at large!” At this, Frau von Mach nudged me; I thought she wanted to be introduced, so I looked at his name and said very seriously:
“Graf von-von-von, this is my friend Frau von Mach.” ^
He instantly stood up, bent his head and clicking his heels, said to her:
“WiH you introduce me to this young lady?”
Frau von Mach (with a smile): “Miss Margot Tennant.”
Graf von-von-von : “I hope you will forgive me thinking your interest in Wagner might not be as great as it appeared.” Margot: “I shall lie back and cover my face with a handkerchief all through the next act to convince you.”
Graf von-von-von: “This would be a heavy punishment for me.”
On the last night of the Ring, I took infinite trouble with my toilette. When we arrived at the theatre neither the lady, her girls, nor the Graf were there. I found a huge bouquet on my seat; it was all yellow roses and close to the stalk were thick clusters of violets, the whole thing tied up with wide Parma violet ribbons. It was such a wonderful bouquet that my heart beat. I buried my face in the roses and wondered why the Graf was so late, and hoped the lady and her daughters, would not turn up. I had never had such a bouquet—no Englishman would have thought of this—I had never seen such huge yellow roses with such long stalks. The curtain rose; how tiresome! Now all the doors would be shut (no one was allowed to disturb the Götterdämmerung).
I felt low, as the next day I was to travel home; life would be so different in London and the lessons so bad. What could have happened to Graf von-von-von? He arrived just before the curtain rose for the last act, and, flinging off his cloak, said breathlessly:
“You can’t imagine how furious I am! We had a regimental dinner to-night of all nights! I asked my Colonel to let me slip off early, or I should not be here now.
I had to say good-bye to you. Is it true? Are you really off to-morrow?”
Margot (pressing the bouquet to her face, leaning faintly towards him and looking into his eyes) : “Alas! Yes! I will send you something from England, so that you mayn’t forget me. I won’t lean back and cover my head with a handkerchief to-night; but if I hide my face in these divine roses, you will forgive me and understand.”
He said nothing but looked a little perplexed. We had not observed the curtain rise but were rudely reminded of it by a lot of angry “hushes” all round us. He clasped his hands together under his chin, bending his head down on them and taking up both arms of the stall with his elbows. When I whispered in his ear, he did not turn his head at all but just cocked his ear down to me. He was not forthcoming; was he pretending to be more interested in Wagner than he really was?
I buried my face in my roses, the curtain dropped. It was all over.
Graf von-von-von.: (turning to me and looking straight into my eyes): “If it is true what you said, that you know no one in Berlin, what a wonderful compliment the lady with the diamond grasshoppers has paid you!”
He took my bouquet, smelt the roses and, giving it back to me, said: